Saturday, January 31, 2015

California / Arizona Times

Day 12, Saturday January 31, 2015
Day 11, Friday January 30, 2015
On the road after breakfast by 9 this morning and on into Mesa to Denice's deceased Aunts and Uncle's beautiful double wide park model home at 2929 Palm Desert Resort on Main Street' We had been invited to just use the unit as our own by MaryAnn, their daughter. We did as she had advised and after settling in made a quick trip to Fry's Grocery store for a few supplies needed for the next few days. This just feel like home!!

Day 10, Thursday January 29, 2015
Left Larry's shortly after 9 AM and went down past the Salton Sea again until joining with I 80. Eastward on I 80 to Yuma. There we met with My cousin Jim Rodgers who I have not seen for at least 40 years. We met at an Arby's, had lunch, and caught up on our lives for the last 40 years for over 2 hours. We must not wait another 40 years again!! They now live in Milk River in the summer time, Have a diesel motorhome and pull a Ford 250 ecoboost pickup. After leaving them to drove down to Gila Bend to a Best Western there.

Day 9, Wednesday January 28, 2015
After breakfast this morning  Larry suggested that we take a drive. He recommended, and we agreed, that we go down to the Salton Sea and then turn west to Borrego Springs. This was a very interesting place with a multitude of metal sculptures. After leaving there we headed west up over another steep pass and worked northward until we headed back east to Palm Springs, arriving home before 6 PM

Just one of the couple hundred sculptures at Borrego Springs -Amazing

Denice and I beside another

Day 8, Tuesday January 27, 2015
After breakfast this morning Larry took us out to an Oasis not far from town. We walked 2.4 miles up to an oasis pond and back again. Then home . A good day. For dinner, we met Brother Leroy and wife Gayleen, and Larry went out to one of the club houses within the park for Dinner. Good meal !! Then back to Leroys for a drink before returning home

Day 7, Monday January 26, 2015
Up this morning and headed into Joshua Tree Park. Spent most of the day just slowly cruising the roads taking in the sights. It was raining part time so we did little walking. Exited the park at about 3 PM and called Brother Larry that we were on our way to his house in Palm Desert Sun City. We had added his address to the Jeeps GPS, but forgot it was set for avoiding Freeways preference, where possible, so once in Palm Springs she took us in sort of a roundabout way to get there, but did arrive by 5PM. Larry Bar-B-Qued some great steak for Dinner and we caught up on things.

Denice under the "Split Rock"

Skull Rock

A nice Joshua Tree

Larry's Great Yard - "A Lot of Work"


Day 6, Sunday January 25, 2015
Left Death Valley this morning and headed west over a 5000 ft summit and down into another low elevation valley. Turned south and followed the valley road until it joined highway 395 at Ridgecrest. From there headed south toward Palm Springs, then east to Joshua Tree, then on to 29 Palms. Checked into a Best Western Motel and then toured the town to take pictures of all the murals on the walls there. Dinner at a rib steak house. Was good but we think the ones I do on the Bar-B-Que are better.

A very Neat Mural - the 3D effect was amazing

And in California they do move some big loads - (I think 128 tires)

Day 5, Saturday January 24, 2015
Toured Death Valley today. Down to Artists road again this morning, then down the west side dirt road for 40 miles of washboard then back to Bad Water, then 25 miles to Dante's Viewpoint, some 5500 ft above Bad Water, then returned to Stove Pipe Wells for the night. After Dinner and darkness we went down to the sand dunes where it was pitch black and we viewed the stars and the Milky Way

Day 4, Friday January 23, 2015
Away from Tonapah by about 8:30AM and headed down 93 highway to near Beatty, turned west to Scotty's Castle. Stopped there for a while - bought a years National Park pass for $80, then went to Ubehebe Crater. We wanted to to go on to Raceway but was 27 miles there and same on return on rough washboard dirt road so we decided to by-pass. Went south to Stove Pipe Wells and checked into motel there for 2 nights. As it was only a little after 1 by then went back to Titus Canyon. I walked up it for about a half mile before returning. Lots of pictures, then went south past Furnace Creek to Artists Palette Drive just before dark - more pictures before returning to Stove Pipe Wells. Dinner at the restaurant there, before turning in.

Colorful Formations

The Artists Palette

A Curious Visitor

The Walkout at Bad Water
View of Bad Water from 5500 ft above
(Notice the Walk out in the lower center)

Day 3, Thursday January 22, 2015
Left Tremonton by 8 this morning and went into Salt Lake during rush hour. Again decided on a new route so headed west to Wendover, about 120 miles, then south to Ely.  Was still too early to stop for the night so then decide to go over to Tonapah, another 165 miles. Desolation, was the subject of the day! Cars on the highway were few and far in between. Often none in sight for places where we could see straight sections of the highway for 15 miles or more. In Tonapah we checked into a Best Western Inn. Today was another 500 mile day. We just had left overs for dinner from our newly purchased cooler.
Day 2, Wednesday January 21, 2015
Left Great Falls by 8 this morning and drove to Helena, then decided to change route and proceed to Idaho Falls via West Yellowstone. Was a great day and a great trip! Weather was "clear and cold" highway was great and bare, although lots of snow south along the ditches of West Yellowstone. We saw lots of birds, Eagles, hawks and swans. Arrived in Idaho Falls by just after 3, so decided to continue on to Pocetello, but even then was too early to stop so went on to Tremonton and found a Hamptons Inn. Stayed there and had dinner at a Denny's again tonight.
Day 1,  Tuesday Jan. 20, 2015
Waited around morning until was able to get parcel from the post office - It was what I had hoped, my attachment between my new Nikon camera to me old Pentax lenses' As soon as I had opened that we were on the road by shortly after noon.
Stopped at friends, Tom and Linda's in Warner for a quick cup of tea for only 15 to 25 minutes, then on the road again. Crossed border without incidence, and were in Great Falls by 5:30PM. Stayed at Crystal Hotel up by Flying J. Dinner at Denny's

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Well, we have to try this again!!!

I know it's been a long time since I did an update. Just seems I was always too busy --- no, that is just an excuse. I am retired so have all the time in the world, but it is just too easy to procrastinate and not do it. So today I decided to try to get it going again. I may only do one post a week or so and will only download a few pictures. Seems, at least for me, that placing the pictures into the blog takes the most time. If I try to put the pictures from my camera in the are far too many megabytes to place "as is" so have to re-size them before uploading them. Other wise the blog gets far too big and slow for people to open it.
Enough of that and enough excuses!

Now, what have we been doing since my last blog, I think it was when we were on our way home from Texas in the spring of 2014! Bad Bad Dennis!!

We spent the summer at home in High River, completing the rebuilding of our home there, after the devastation from the June 2013 flood. We had a very good local contraction doing the work, and he had been doing all the rebuild in our lower level during the months we were down south in Texas. When we arrived home only the final finishing touches were required like panting and completing the fireplace. We were very happy with all his work and we would sure recommend him to anyone in need of carpentry work. Also our Insurance Company, The Cooperators," were amazing! At first we were not sure how much coverage we actually had, but found we were 100% covered. Both contents and rebuild. The only thing not covered was anything outdoors, but the DRP, (Disaster Recovery Program) did help us some with that end. They still owe us a couple thousand dollars, and the latest we read, is that all payments will be made before spring. Hopefully!!

Then during the summer we headed to Alaska for a 2 month trip north. We had a great time up there travelling with friends Roy and Lynn Penniket from Granum. I guess that could be a whole installment in this blog, but I will condense that to something more manageable. We travelled all the way to 70 miles beyond the Arctic Circle, but left our motorhome in Fairbanks and did the bus tour up to Coldfoot, then flew back to Fairbanks. Then on down to Anchorage. and out to the coast at Seward. Started having motor home issues at Anchorage and need mechanics assistance there, But that is another story that would take a long time to fill in all the details. Suffice to say from there all the way home had many issues, (about $5000 worth), that rather put a cramp in our trip, but on the whole was a great experience. We arrive home mid September.

We had already decided not to go south this winter as we had most used up our 182 days out of Canada for 2014. We wanted to just stay home for the winter for a change, and then during the summer months head south-east to the north-eastern states that we had not visited previously. There are about 7 that we have never been in, and want to add them to our list of visited US states.

We had a good winter, with only a few cold spells, but by the time January rolled around, we had this itch that needed to be scratched, and the only way to get relief, seemed to be to get to a warmer climate for a few weeks. Costa Rica was our first choice, but by once more procrastinating, had left it too  late to get good tours and connections. Second choice was Cuba, but we had already been there, so will hold that for another year or so. Third was just jump in the jeep and head south to California and Arizona. That is a no brainer, and no planning necessary. Two days later we were on the road!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Our Trip Northward and Home

Tuesday April 8th
Packed up this morning and headed north after saying good bye to neighbors  Pat (Jay) and Jinx. Also saying good bye to the Gulf of Mexico for this year. We have enjoyed our time down here, although it has not been the best weather. Everyone we talk to agrees that it has been a cold wet winter and spring.
Drove northward through Beaumont on I 10 and then turned off and on northward to Carthage, TX to Carthage RV Campground, a distance of uneventful 207 miles.

Wednesday April 9th
From Carthage, TX continued on northward through the Arkansas Ozarks and up to Alma, KOA, near Ft Smith Arkansas. The Ozarks are always enjoyable, maybe somewhat comparable to the Hill Country in Texas, but in a more primitive way. Distance today was 295 miles. Took a circle route round Ft Smith and found Alma just a few miles away, but still near the main highway. The KOA was easy to find and it was a fair Park

Thursday April 10th
On the road northward again. Left Alma, Arkansas and went north on highway 540. I thought this was going to be on a secondary state highway. Not So!! It is a new interstate highway with some amazingly high bridges. Seems like we crossed about 50 of them with heights I'm sure over 300 ft above the creeks below. An amazing piece of engineering!! After we arrived in Lafayette, Arkansas the I 540 ended but traffic was very heavy for about 50 miles through several cities almost touching each other, The last was Bentonville, home of Sam Walton, the originator of Walmart, and from then the highway changed to Highway 71, but was still a very good 4 lane divided route. Arrived in Carthage, Missouri about 1 PM and checked into "The Big Red Barn" RV Park. Had some lunch and the headed off the "Precious Moments"
Did a tour of the grounds and chapel and viewed lots of magnificent stained glass work - away beyond my expertise, and then of course into the gift store. Dropped a couple hundred $$ there, but Denice got some neat things.

Friday April 11th
Away early this morning at 8:30AM and up Highway I 49 and US #71 to just outside Kansas City, then onto 435 around the city. Turned off into Smithville and then to Bass Country RV Park. I screwed up a little on the way in. These are narrow country roads to the park and our GPS was saying turn Right and I was thinking Left, so I turned left and then of course I could not back up and God knows how far I would have to go to get turned around, so I unhooked and Denice drove the jeep the last couple miles to the park. Got checked in and led to our site. 81. WIFI very poor, also TV poor but still OK here. They make Pizza and wings, so ordered for Dinner at 5:30PM.
Checked out possible sites for stopping tomorrow and chose On-yur-wa RV Park at Onaway, a Good Sam one. Reserved for tomorrow night.

Saturday April 12th
On the road early this morning by 7:30 AM as forecast was for wind. Traveled northward through Council Bluffs, Iowa. The same city as Omaho Nebraska, but on the east side of the Missouri River. We only had routed for 225 miles and arrived at On-Yur-Wa RV park by noon, and checked in. Got set up and found very good wifi here. Checked forecast for next couple days and does not appear good. Cold and wind, so we may just sit tight here until better weather.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I've Gotta get this Blog going Again

Getting up to date in 2014
Well here it is January 24th and nothing reported to date on my blog.  Shame, shame!!
Ok what have we done so far?  Arrived Dec 29th from Calgary vie air. Next door friend, Wayne Lively picked us up at the airport and drove us home to ELTORO.
Thanks Wayne!!
A few days to get settled in, but as we had left the power on and the frig running, every thing seemed OK. We did have to make a fast trip to the HEB grocery for some supplies so we had food in the house. One small glitch was that as we had drained the hot water tank, we of course had no hot water. We are used to having the tank full and one of Denice's jobs is to start the turn on the propane to it to initiate some hot water, Without the water there the thermostat over heated and burned out. Lesson Learned!  Thankfully the tank has two heating systems so after filling the tank with water, turned the electric heater on and soon we had hot water. Left the tank that way for a week or so until able to get Premium RV repair to come by and replace the thermostat. Also when they came by, the furnace was acting up, so they did some testing and found nothing more serious than a corroded ignitor. Repaired and happy now.
Weather has not been too great, especially for Texas, but warmer than High River. Watching the weather there daily and it definitely is winter back home!  The first few days back here were highlighted by steady rain and cool. Then it started to warm up, and sometimes to near 80 Deg F. Today was remarkably cold with only a high of about 40. Understandably we spent most of the day inside with the furnace running. Cities like Houston and San Antonio were reporting icy bridges and recommending no travel. Yesterday morning we had frost on the top of our jeep, but seemed no damage to our flowering plants along our site. Forecast is for warming over the next few days back to seasonal temperatures. Sure hope so!
What have we been doing with ourselves you ask.  A lot of reading, eating, sleeping! Isn't that what we are supposed to do when retired? We have been doing some day trips to see the birding areas around here. Often we just walk over to Bentson State Park across the road from us. There are lots of trails and places to see and while we observe the birds we do get our daily walk in. Sometimes up to three miles, but that is a little much. We have also gone to The National Butterfly Center just down the road, Santa Anna National Wildlife refuge, Salineno (60 miles NW  along the Rio Grande River) and yesterday to Edinburg to their Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center. Main reason to go there was to possibly see a Tropical Parula. Denice took lots of pictures, but we were unable to find the elusive parula. It was not until we were back home and she was reviewing her pictures that she noticed that the very first bird she took a picture was that parula!  How about that, and didn't even know that was what she was looking at! Salineno is always one of our favouries. Hosts for that site have a couple of 5th wheel trailers that is there homes during the birding season. It is right on the Rio Grande River and rather secluded. So much so that last year they were not allowed there, as it was thought unsafe, with illegal Mexican activities so close, but this year they relaxed there requirements and are up and running again. they have about 20 chairs set up and bird feeding is always on. All you have to do is sit and take pictures, and there always seems to be a feeding frenzy. All the birds we enjoy are there. Orioles, Kiskidees, Green Jays, Warblers, Wrens, Thrushes, Cardinals, Doves, and a host of others.
One day we went on a boat trip up the Rio Grande
At the Dock

A Mexican Mansion - Did Drugs pay for it?

Another Mexican Villa

Our Protectors - The Border Patrol

Flying Egret

Looking up the Rio

Screech Owl

Black Headed Grosbeak



Indigo Bunting

Black Phoebe

Golden Fronted Woodpecker

Great Kiskadee

Another Golden Fronted Woodpecker

Monk Head Parakeets

Behind ELTORO we have 7 or 8 bird feeders out offering a much varied buffet for the birds. We have daily visits of Kiskadee's, Green Jays, the odd Cardinal, Warblers, Woodpeckers ( both ladderback and golden fronted), Doves, occasionally an oriole, a million sparrows and a million blackbirds, and grackles. Also a few squirrels.
Some more updates
Again been some more catching up to do. We have now left Mission, Texas on our somewhat indirect trip northward. We are trying to outlast the last remnants of winter back in the frozen north.
It was a great winter in Mission, although not as warm as we might have wished, but still we did not have to shovel!! We spent a lot of time "birding" in and around the area. I will not add a lot of photos, as most of the birds are repeats of ones we have already seen and posted on this blog.
We made a lot of new friends in the park, and will be keeping in contact with all of them.
One day we made a trip down across the border to Progresso, Mexico and snapped these pictures.
A field of Broccoli

Harvesting the Broccoli

Crossing into Progresso

Welcome to Mexico

Inside the Canada Store in Progresso, Mexico

ELTORO gets a wash job
At the park, there is a great wood shop with a lot of the guys, and ladies, doing great woodworking projects. There are about a dozen privately owned lathes and 3 park owned so a lot of "turning" takes place there. Now I am supposed to be the turning guy, so you would think that I would have a lot of projects on the go. Not so! Just did not seem to ever get the time or the urge, but at the end of the season they had a craft show, so here are a few of the projects that were completed. I even bought one myself!
Looking Down the Table

A Nifty Design

Multiple Segments

A segmented Bowl

Dyed wood inserts
Some of the selections. I bought the one on the bottom left
We even had a dog show one day!

And our neighbors Steve and Kim's dog won

We had planned on returning every year for the winter, so had reserved our Super site #722 for the year from April 15th 2013 to April 15th 2014, and certainly planned on extending it for another year. The super sites included a 12 ft  x 12 ft. Garden shack on our large cement pad. All the pads are bordered with flowering shrubs that the birds and butterfly's are attracted to. Ours was Great and I added new grass seed to the back yard to increase the appeal there. However, as time wore on, we had that wanderlust feeling that there was still a lot of things we wanted to see, before we got too old to enjoy them.
A couple other shots around the area:
Horned Lizards

Female Cardinal

Munkhead Parakeet

Decision time.
With a bit of sadness, we made the decision that maybe it was time to move on, we will probably return to the Rio Grande Valley someday, sometime in the future!  We are not the only ones seeking new adventures, our near neighbor/family/friends Wayne and Jan are also moving on....Arizona is their next stop (Wayne and Jan from Michigan are full timers).  We are not sure where our travels will take us, but, we do know we will enjoy the fun and adventure wherever the 'new' road will take us.
  So, we pack up Eltoro AND Toadone, because we seem to have gathered up more 'stuff' while sitting in one spot.....a swing, a 12 x 12 shade canopy, more tools, more craft stuff, two tables etc and now Eltoro is packed, every last little nook and cranny is full....oh yes Dennis's wood takes up a compartment!!!! And then, as I never did get involved in the wood working shop, I had elected to do some stained glass work instead, so had purchased all the tools and equipment need for that endeavor. Like grinders, a glass saw, cutters, soldering equip, and a whole bunch of glass of various colors and textures. Another compartment!! 
But the Denice is not totally left out. We made a couple of trips to Harlingen to buy material, threads, and equipment for her the work on a quilt to replace the one she lost in the High River flood. She had purchased a new sewing machine, again a flood replacement, before we left home and brought it down with us in Toadone last fall. Now we need to find a home to store all that away as well.  And then there were her books --------!!!
On March 14th we headed north to Rockport, where we met up with the wonderful people we call friends from when we were there before. Two weeks did not give us a lot of time to visit and do everything we wanted to do.  We visited our favorite birding sites.......Goose Island State Park, we saw lots of warblers, water fowl and most importantly nine whooping cranes.  Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, not to many birds but we did see nine alligators (hmmm, nine again). We also had quite few birds at our feeders (happy Denice)! 
Hooded Oriole

Can you seethe Owl?

Kiskadee and Clay Colored Thrush

Cedar Waxwing

Vermillion Flycatcher

  We took two days and headed up to New Braunfels to see Denice's cousin Hettie and Hettie's family, Loren and Teresa, their children Kylie and Jake. Visited downtown, old town, New Braunfels, that was settled by mainly German people and has a great history!  We also took in a few shops and spent a FEW dollars! Had dinner out with all the Partridge family at the Grist Mill in Gruene, good food, wonderful people. Gruene incidentally is pronounced green, so the German influence.
  Back in Rockport, we were invited to go with our "Jaxsen Heights" friends to China A's, our favorite Chinese food restaurant and then before we left Rockport on the 14th we again, with the same people and a few more went to JD's Seafood Restaurant. First we had gone to a place called Moon Doggies and after all 11 of us had sat down, we told that our bill could only be split 2 ways. Customarily when a group of this size gets together we usually have bills for each couple. We said "OK, we will just separate the tables and order individually." But they told us we had come in as a group and would have to order that way. We said "No," and got up and left. My parting words to the manager was, "I hope you realize you just lost about $400 income and 11 peoples business for ever!" However we went on down to JD's and were welcomed in. I had a chicken fried steak that the size of a platter, enough food for three people (and it did two more meals).  We will miss our Jaxsen Heights friends and will look forward to seeing them in the future.  Of course we do keep in touch with all our Winter Texan friends via e-mail and FB.
  On the 28th of March we headed north-east to Galveston, a trip of a couple hundred miles. We had reserved at Jamaica Beach RV resort. We found it to be a very nice, clean park with lots of amenities. Since were only there for four days we found them a busy four days. One of the guys I had hired while I was a Shell employee is stationed in Houston and as we do communicate occasionally had expressed an interest in meeting up for dinner, so that night he and his wife, Linda, came to Galveston and we had dinner with them at Gaido's Seafood Restaurant. It was great and we chatted for 3 hours, Rob bringing me up to date on a lot of the happenings in the Shell World and where a lot of the guys and gals I had worked with, but had lost contact with. Denice and Linda also chatted a whole lot, and found they had so many of the same interests, Stitching, quilting, scrap booking, and birds. We had never met Linda before, but were sure impressed! The next morning we again met them for breakfast at IHOP. Another 3 hours!! So glad we had done that!
For the remainder of our time in Galveston we visited along the Seawall, went to the Strand ( Galveston's Business section) Ocean Star ( An Off Shore Drilling Rig Museum), The Alissa Museum (An old Tall Ship that is still sea worthy) and to the Moody Gardens (A )  Moody Gardens boasts 3 large glass pyramids featuring and aquarium in one, discovery center in one, and a tropical forest in the other. All were very interesting and time consuming. We visited some birding sites as well, but one of them that we wanted to see was closed down due to the old spill in the harbor the week before where a Liberian tanked rammed a barge carrying bunker crude. 160,000 gallons were lost in the harbor. We saw little of the oil on the beaches or along the port, but there sure was lots of Oil Spill activity happening. Ironically, this is the exact area where 30 years ago, as a new Shell employee, I was sent to take an oils spill course and how to clean up one!
April 1st we loaded up again and crossed the Galveston Bay on the ferry onto the Boliver Peninsula. Crossing the bay on the ferry is about a half hour trip of a few miles, but very interesting to be so up close to the seagoing ships and freighters. At any time there are up to a dozen ships lined up waiting to enter the bay.
Once across the Bay we continued on down the peninsula to High Island, about 25 miles. We had booked here for a week as this is rated as probably the #1 birding spot on the Southern States. High Island town has only about 300 people and one RV Park.
A bit about High Island:
It is called a dome. A lot of Texas has a thick salt layer some 30,000 ft down and with a tectonic movement millions of years ago a column of the salt was pushed up, raising the surface about 35 feet higher that the rest of the surrounding area. Trees were now supported here and flourish. Oil collected around the outside of the dome and back in the 30's a multitude of wells were drilled here, and the town flourished. A few are still producing, but most are just rusting pumper hulks. But new life for High Island! Birds migrating northward in the spring and southward in the fall, to and from the Uccatan Peninsula in Mexico, find this a haven to either rest from the crossing, or to fatten up for the 600 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently when the small birds, mostly a variety of warblers, strike out across the Gulf, they leave Mexico at dusk and fly non-stop for about 12 hours through the night until they reach Texas. By now they are totally tired and hungry and land as soon as they can. High Island with its lust growth is most appealing to them! And where there are birds, there are Birders!!